And I don’t mean with fava beans. I started watching Hannibal this week and was totally prepared to write a well-deserved rave review for the new NBC drama while I caught up to the mid-season airing tonight when the annoying sidereel pop-up gibbered that Hannibal had been taken off the air by an NBC affiliate in Salt Lake City due to complaints about the graphic material. Lame. Similar mini-cancelations proved to be prophets of destruction for shows in the past (See: the Playboy Club). NBC universally already pulled one episode of the gory drama right after the Boston bombings, another bad blow to a show that’s been losing ratings since its premiere. I’m not in the business of recommending shows to readers just for their hearts to get smashed by an underserved cancelation, but if you’re in to quashed potential, I could use some positive thoughts toward Hannibal’s renewal next season, so read my review and catch up!
One of the most refreshing aspects of the show is that it is not an origins story. The Hannibal we meet in the first episode is mature, refined, and already committed to racking up that body count/snacks. Like the movies however, the star isn’t the gentlemanly killer, but an FBI special agent and hunter of serial killers, Will Graham, played by an excellent Hugh Dancy. Graham, whose uncannily creepy ability to empathize with mad butchers and crazy slashers, always seems just on the edge of plunging a knife in some unfortunate victim himself. Graham teams up with Hannibal in the profiling of the FBI’s most heinous murderers, and eventually becomes the patient of a knowingly sympathetic Dr. Lector.
Actually, Graham is definitely more creepy than this series’ adaptation of Hannibal’s character. Don’t get me wrong, Mads Mikkelsen(some killer name, huh?) gives the audience a pleasurable Dr. Lector to watch, but it’s certainly lacking in the crazy-eyed insanity of Anthony Hopkins. This Hannibal is controlled, subtle, and quiet, perhaps because unlike the character as Starling’s stalker, he hasn’t been twisted further by years in a tiny cell. I can’t picture Mikkelsen’s Lector savagely biting in to a live victim, but who knows how unhinged he’ll become as Graham’s character get’s closer and closer revealing to his secret hobbies…or joining in. I will say that the character also lacks some of Hopkins’ Lector’s genius ability to turn a phrase, but I think this is more a fault at the feet of the writers than at Mikkelsen’s.
Not that I mind a played down Lector, which gives Dancy time to shine. Honestly, whenever he’s on screen I’m afraid he’s going to lose his shit any second. In episode 2, we already see him admit to enjoying shooting a murderer who sliced in to his own daughter’s throat with a butcher knife. Each scene so far has maintained this sort of tension that makes for a thrillingly disturbing hour of TV.
Oh, right. The Gore Factor. Not that I agree with pulling a late-night prime time show that must have all sort of adult content warnings about the graphic imagery, but this show is not shy with the on-screen butchery. It never approaches gore-porn movies like those in the Saw franchise, but it definitely was shocking to see Hannibal slice an’ dice a very real looking set of human lungs in the first episode. Still, you get what tune in for in this show, and so far each serial killer (there isn’t necessarily one per episode–this isn’t Law and Order) has been grosser and more interesting than the last. My favorite so far has been the mushroom garden lovingly cultivated out of half-buried corpses. I can’t tell you how disturbing it is to see a scenic looking fairyland on which you’d normally wish you could frolic that grows out of 4 slowly decaying bodies.
Rounding out the cast is Lawrence Fishburne, as Jack Crawford, head of Behavioral Sciences at the FBI. I had no idea he was even in this show, but expected his role to be completely out shown by two resident psychopaths. Not so. I’ve really enjoyed all his scenes and manages to add some needed sanity to a show full of nuts. The rest of the cast is not memorable or given much screen time, so it makes little difference.
Along with Sundance’s Rectify, Hannibal is the favorite new series of a chick who never bothers to watch new series, especially on network television. Since it takes place before the better of the movies, you don’t need to be well-versed with past adaptations to enjoy this show. It the seventh episode airs Thursdays at 10 on NBC, and the first few episodes can be seen here. Watch with me, guys, and let’s keep this sick show around!